Bobby Mackey’s Music World: America’s Most Haunted Honky-Tonk
[Image credit: Tabitha Kaylee Hawk / Flickr]

By Ryan Crawley.

Bobby Mackey is a traditional country singer, he was never a big star, but he had put out a few country albums over the years. He bought a place in the small town of Wilder, Kentucky so he would always have a place to play his music for an audience. He named the establishment Bobby Mackey’s Music World and had a grand opening in September, 1978. But the nightclub soon became known for more than just the music. Strange things started happening soon after it opened. So much so, that the slogan for the place became, “Come for the ghosts, stay for the music”.

Perhaps Mackey would have chosen a different location if he had known more about the property and its dark history of murder, suicide, and rumors of human sacrifice.

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Mackey’s Music World is generally described as a smoky dive bar with a mechanical bull, a line dancing floor, and most famously as having its very own portal to hell in the basement. While many shady bars seem like hell, this place is quite a bit different. Sitting along the east bank of Licking River, the land had been used for centuries by Native Americans, who fought bloody battles over the rich and fertile land. When white settlers came in the 1700’s the area came to be called Leitch’s Station but by the 1800’s it was renamed Wilder, after the railroad station that was built nearby. Once connected to the vast railway network, the small farming and manufacturing town grew and prospered.

Bobby Mackey’s Music World: America’s Most Haunted Honky-Tonk
[Image credit: Tabitha Kaylee Hawk / Flickr]

In 1850, on the site Mackey’s would eventually sit, a huge slaughterhouse was built. Supplying vast quantities of beef to upper Kentucky and Cincinnati, all the blood, guts, and bones from the animals were dumped in the well located in the basement. The well, fed out into the nearby river turning the clear waters red with each new blood dump.

When the slaughterhouse closed in 1890 the building was left unused and abandoned. Some say that a satanic cult moved in shortly after, they were rumored to have used the well in the basement for rituals and blood sacrifices. While such stories of cults and satanic worship are often the lifeblood of small-town legends, the abandoned slaughterhouse was soon the setting of a very real horror story.

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In 1896, the headless body of 22-year-old Pearl Bryan was discovered in a field on the property. Pregnant at the time of her death she had been brutally murdered by her boyfriend Scott Jackson, a dentistry student who had tried to perform a botched abortion on her with the help of a fellow dentistry school classmate, Alonzo Walling. Things went horribly wrong and Pearl died during the procedure.

Bobby Mackey’s Music World: America’s Most Haunted Honky-Tonk
[Image credit: Tabitha Kaylee Hawk / Flickr]

The two men panicked and removed her head, believing that in doing so the police would never be able to identify her. They were soon caught and sentenced to hang. Right before Walling was executed, it’s said he proclaimed he would haunt that land forever in revenge for his unjust death. Local lore also has it that the two men threw Pearl’s head in the basement well as part of an occult ritual, and in doing so created the portal to hell that Mackey’s would later become famous for.

In the 1920s the slaughterhouse was torn down and a roadhouse built in its place. During prohibition, it became a secret bar and casino called The Primrose. The speakeasy soon attracted mobsters and bootleggers who tried to muscle in on the booming business. Fights ensued, leading to the attempted murder of the owner of Primrose, who soon sold up and moved to Florida. By the 1950s, the building was transformed again when it became a nightclub called the Latin Quarter. It was during this period of the building’s history that Mackey’s most famous ghost joined the roster of spirits said to haunt the establishment.

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So the story goes, a young dancer named Johanna fell in love with a handsome singer named Robert Randall. She soon became pregnant, and once her gangster father found out he had the singer killed. Heartbroken and driven to madness Johanna attempted to poison her father before going down to her dressing room in the basement and killing herself. Her lifeless body was found lying next to the well, but her spirit is said to have remained, cursed forever to wander the haunted music hall in search of her lost love.

Bobby Mackey’s Music World: America’s Most Haunted Honky-Tonk
[Image credit: Tabitha Kaylee Hawk / Flickr]

All of this misfortune sounds like it would be a perfect premise for a country ballad. In that respect, it might be deemed appropriate that Bobby Mackey purchased the building and turned it into a country music venue. But Mackey’s is haunted by far more than heartbreak and sad songs.

Shortly after purchasing the bar in 1978, strange happenings began occurring. Bobby’s wife was attacked by an unseen entity, contractors hired to renovate the venue were slapped, scratched and clawed at. Grown men have been thrown across the room as if they were ragdolls. A woman dressed in white is said to appear in the parking lot before suddenly vanishing into thin air. There have been numerous sightings of the headless spirit of Pearl Bryan and Johanna is well known to sing along to the music. Furniture moves around on its own and the sound of banging and nightmarish screams echo from the walls. However, for all the paranormal phenomenon that Mackey’s is world famous for, it is the activity that takes place in the basement that most have come to fear. A mysterious cowboy lurks in the basement, and deep growls emanate from the well, leading some to claim that it is a direct portal to hell itself, conjured into being by the blood that has been spilled within its dark depths over the years.

However, for all the paranormal phenomenon that Mackey’s is world famous for, it is the activity that takes place in the basement that most have come to fear. A mysterious cowboy lurks in the basement, and deep growls emanate from the well, leading some to claim that it is a direct portal to hell itself, conjured into being by the blood that has been spilled within its dark depths over the years.

If this sounds like a bar you would like to visit or the perfect place for a ghost hunt, then hop in your car and visit Mackey’s. They do offer nightly tours throughout the entire building, including the basement for those brave enough to test the hellish legends for themselves. Just don’t go to near the well, invisible hands are known to push curious tourists towards the well’s edge and you may find yourself added to the long list of otherworldly patrons at America’s most haunted honky-tonk.

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